How to be a better caregiver for a parent

I’d like to share with you an interview I had with Paula Tarrant of Inspired Women Work. Paula asked me a few questions on the subject of supporting your parents while caregiving as well as the need for self-care. – Below is the interview in its entirety.


Paula Tarrant: In your book you describe bringing your dad to your home in California when it became apparent he could no longer live by himself.  It’s not easy for a parent to make that kind of transition. What are the 3 most important ways an adult child can support her parent in navigating this life-changing event?

Carolyn A. Brent: Adult Siblings should ask their aging parents about their wishes, their abilities and their options. This type of conversation is crucial for siblings and their aging parents to have now not later. The following are a few helpful tips:

1) Share your own feelings, and reassure the parent that you will support them and can be depended upon to help them solve their problems. Help the parent to retain whatever control is possible in making his or her own decisions. Respect and try to honor their wishes wherever feasible.

2) Encourage the smallest change possible at each step, so that the parent is more able to adjust to the change. Educate yourself on legal, financial and medical matters that pertain to your parent as background for your conversations, including current knowledge on the aging process.

3) Respect your own needs – be honest with your parents about your time and energy limits.

Paula Tarrant: Many of our readers may already be caregivers of elderly parents. For those of us who are not, how would you suggest beginning this conversation with a parent who is not making any financial, legal or practical preparations for this stage of life?

Carolyn A. Brent: If you’ve never spoken with your parents about death and dying, you are not alone. Even when people do talk about such things, often the right documents aren’t put in place to ensure people’s desires are carried through. Now is the time to start having conversations with your parents explaining how they’d prefer their medical, financial, and legal affairs be managed at the end of their lives. It is best for parents to handle the paper work now rather than wait for the fight that may take place later. 

Obviously there are big issues of denial going on in our society about this topic.  Although no plans are set in place for death, death is guaranteed. Sooner or later our aging parents will die—and so will we.

Paula Tarrant: When we are taking care of a parent as well as ourselves and perhaps even our own family, it becomes easy to put ourselves last. What would you say to our readers about the importance and need for self-care? What are some tips for enlisting our partner and our children in supporting us in this role as a caregiver to our aging parents?

Carolyn A. Brent: After going through the journey and heartache of being the sole family caregiver for my father for twelve years, and then enduring the pain of legal conflicts with my siblings, I ultimately asked myself a key question: What would you do differently if you could do it all over again? My answer was simple: I would take better care of myself at every step in the process.

To be an effective caregiver, you must take care of yourself as well. Now on the other end of caregiving, I find that exercise and meditation help me to relax as I never did beforehand. I wish I would have known to nurture myself better while I was on the journey with my father.  For family members give the caregiver a break. Treat them to a Day Spa, offer a Paid Vacation, just simply say THANK YOU! Boy that will mean a lot to a caregiver.

I hope you enjoyed this interview with Carolyn A. Brent and that you’ll check out her book Why Wait? The Baby Boomers’ Guide

Inspired Women Work

About Carolyn Brent

Dr. Carolyn A. Brent, is an award-winning bestselling author and a National Physique Committee (NPC) Masters Women's Figure Champion at age 60. She is an expert on both self-care and caregiving; she is the founder of Across All Ages and two nonprofit organizations, CareGiverStory Inc. and Grandpa's Dream. Carolyn's research and extensive collection of published works have made her a notable figure in her field. For seventeen years, she worked for some of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies and has worked as a volunteer at various assisted-living facilities. Her award-winning books include The Caregiver's Companion: Caring for Your Loved One Medically, Financially and Emotionally While Caring for Yourself and The Caregiver's Legal Survival Guide: Navigating through the Legal System.

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